Emerging TechnologyAI & AutomationThe rise of the automation powered agency

The rise of the automation powered agency

The automated agency model incorporates a combination of human and machine intelligence, creating what Forrester calls intelligent creativity.

30-second summary:

  • The automated agency model includes a combination of human and machine intelligence, creating what Forrester calls intelligent creativity.
  • The perfect creative team must leverage a combination of human and machine ingenuity, a process they call “intelligent creativity.”
  • Intelligent creativity relies on on AI, intelligent software, and automation to improve an agency’s creativity and productivity (rather than replace it).
  • Agencies are reluctant to embrace automation for a variety of reasons, including an inability to keep up with the rapid pace of change, a lack of automation talent, and the high cost of acquiring new tools.
  • When automation is prioritized as a core principal of the agency, it becomes a tool to enhance, rather than replace, agency capabilities.

According to a recent Forrester report, creative and media agencies are on track to lose 11% of jobs to automation by 2023 and 2032, respectively. The composition of agencies is shifting. Smaller finance departments, less back-office support and a reduction in production and creative jobs—the core of the agency—are all being impacted by automation.

For media agencies, the departments hit hardest are the ones that are more easily automated and include QA, tagging, and reconciliation.

This isn’t all bad news. It suggests that the demand for agencies isn’t going away, but the way agencies are able to offer value to their clients is changing.

Human + machine intelligence = the new creative model

Forrester concludes that the perfect creative team must leverage a combination of human and machine ingenuity, a process they call “intelligent creativity.” The types of tools that enable intelligent creativity rely heavily on AI, intelligent software, and automation to improve an agency’s creativity and productivity.

We reached out to Andrew Hally, CMO at Bynder to get his opinion on how agencies can leverage automation to enhance—rather than replace—agency capabilities. Bynder is a cloud-based digital asset management (DAM) platform that uses AI to help companies organize and streamline creative assets.

DAMs facilitate collaboration among creative, production, and sales teams, so that brands can easily access media, graphics, and documents across distributed teams (something particularly helpful at a time when many companies are operating remotely). However, even though agencies can now automate some of their creative execution, they’re slow to embrace this new technology.

“While there have been major strides in marketing automation over the past decade, it’s still incredibly unbalanced. Downstream campaign execution is now highly automated, but the same investments haven’t been made into the upstream creative work – it’s still mostly manual and bespoke. We’re at a tipping point where the volume of content needed is simply unsustainable via these means,” writes Hally.

“Agencies have benefited from automation in the past, there’s still a fear that applying more automation to marketing processes will replace jobs. But, if you look back through history over the last 100 years, there’s a pattern of automation lowering costs and increasing consumption. And, in some cases, it’s at a rate that actually increases employment.”

Agencies reluctantly embrace automation

In a 2019 survey of digital agencies by Marketing Land, 72% of respondents were neutral when asked how they felt about automation. The challenges that agencies face with automation are similar to what brands are facing—a rapidly changing marketing environment, the super-fast speed of innovation, and the pressing need to find people who are qualified to manage all this new tech.

Finding talent is a big pain point. While 70% of respondents in the survey indicated they were hiring, while fully 50% said they were having difficulty filling positions.

The cost of acquiring and implementing marketing automation tools is another (huge) challenge that agencies face, and a core reason they’re reluctant to climb on board the automation train. Without the talent to manage automated tools, many go unused.

AI-automated tools require constant care and feeding, meaning data and analytics are prioritized (e.g., a data plan is in place and the data that’s fed into these tools is frequently monitored and updated).

In short, implementing an automation strategy is a crucial step that agencies must take before they can truly benefit from this technology. This is a key reason why agency adoption of automation is lukewarm, at best. There are already a dozen balls that agencies must juggle, from client requests to managing existing campaigns, to recruiting talent.

Agencies that prioritize automation now will stand out among their peers, and (ultimately) find that it’s easier to keep up with the growing demands of clients—from need for more targeted and personalized campaigns to the increasing need to produce timely, relevant, and high quality content in abundance.

“This technology is now well-poised to alleviate the ‘content crunch’ that many organizations are facing, giving designers and videographers time back to focus on more high-value activities that powerful brands are made of,” explains Hally.

“It will also change the nature of creative work. The old ‘big idea’ delivered as finished assets doesn’t fit today’s algorithm-driven, personalized digital experience infrastructure. Instead, agencies will deliver ‘kits’ of source files that digital marketing teams can use to generate the hundreds of variations their campaigns need in a far more agile process.”

The agility of automation

The Forrester report emphasizes the importance of intelligent creativity as way that agencies can recover from a loss of business due to the pandemic. When automation is prioritized as a core principal of the agency, it becomes a tool to enhance, rather than replace, agency capabilities.

Brands are already doing this. Bynder has seen their customers achieve tremendous success by combining automation with human ingenuity.

Writes Hally: “One Bynder customer had their in-house agency create social media templates to drive consistency while allowing other parts of the marketing team to localize assets and tweak them as needed. The reusability, agility and improved marketing enables both agency and in-house creative teams to deliver more value.”

Accelerating automation within the agency is the best (and possibly the only) way for agencies to stay relevant as we move into 2021 and beyond. The need for agility, flexibility, and scalability while working with fewer resources demands automation.

This isn’t about abandoning creativity in favor of technology. It’s about embracing both. Agencies who accelerate automation and integrate it with their existing offerings have the best opportunity to thrive.

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